A section of Taita Taveta County residents have been living miserable lives as a result of human-wildlife conflict, a common phenomenon to communities living adjacent to Tsavo National Park. Here, food and economic security of subsistence farmers have been compromised to the extent of residents depending on governmental emergency food relief aid.
In March this year, we paid a visit to Justine Muthiani, a peasant farmer from Bungule, a remote village that lies at the foot of Kasigau hill – part of the Eastern Arc Mountains which border the southern wing of Tsavo West National Park. This season, Muthiani grew ten acres of cowpeas with high hopes of recording a bumper harvest despite experiencing heavy losses the previous season. Unfortunately, a week later after the visit, we received a sad call from him reporting how elephants had immensely caused destruction in his farm leaving nothing behind.
Muthiani is among thousands of farmers in Taita Taveta suffering the same fate. In addition to unpredictable little rainfall, the human-elephant conflict has made residents abandon crop farming and adopt other sources of income-generating activities.
In 2018, news about four girls (Sandra Lukindo – founder, Anastacia Wairimu –technician, Macrina Antonia – researcher and Joyce Mtoto – Marketing) from Kajire Girls High School hit the headlines after inventing a solar-powered sensor dubbed ‘Ndovu Care’ aimed at reducing human-elephant conflict.
The team flew to the USA to represent Kenya in a competition held at the University of Delaware after emerging the best in the National Diamond Africa Challenge held in Elgeyo Marakwet County. The gadget is an integration of a motion sensor and a Global System for Mobile.
Speaking while demonstrating how the gadget works, Sandra Lukindo noted that students in the area have been performing poorly because of interference by marauding elephants which sometimes force them to report to school late or not at all.
The gadget that is mounted next to the elephant route is programmed such that it generates mobile alerts and sends a notification to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the villagers and raises a siren before the jumbos cause destructions. It has a sensor with an ability to track an elephant passing 180m away.
Mr. Ezra Abuka, the ICT Patron and mentor who has been guiding the young innovators told Voi Business Network that World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Kenya has sponsored the piloting of the project at Rukinga Ranch with the help of Rebecca Lynn from America, a researcher on human-animal conflict working with Wildlife Works.
“Late July this year we managed to mount the gadget in Rukinga Ranch with technical support from Wildlife Works research department, unfortunately, we have not been able to timely collect reliable data for analysis because of poor mobile network,” said Mr. Abuka.
He added that through piloting, the inventors have been able to learn where the gaps are before they commercialize the innovation.
The Diamond Challenge 2020 registration is open for application and closes on 8th January 2020. Kindly click here to apply through Sote Hub (National live pitch Centre for Diamond Challenge): https://diamondchallenge.org/sotehub/
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